As you celebrate Memorial Day today, remember its real purpose. When you’re with your family today, please remind them the sacrifice this day memorializes, and the young men and women who’ve given their all for us to be able to celebrate it. In all of America’s wars, approximately 1.2 million Americans have paid the ultimate price. It is only fitting and proper that we honor that sacrifice and make it known to all our appreciation for what they fought for and have helped preserve.
I had plans for a different post today, but yesterday afternoon I was asked to be the pinch speaker at a local event. I thought I would share instead the remarks I plan to make shortly.
This Story Shall The Good Man Teach His Son
I speak today in place of Dylan, a young veteran who was scheduled to be here. He sends his sincere regrets, but his band of brothers is now smaller, and this day he and those closer in many ways than family, gather for a different ceremony of remembrance. I hope you will understand and forgive Dylan his absence.
Unlike him, I can’t speak on what it is like to serve in the modern armed forces. As a civilian, I have been fortunate to spend some time with our armed forces in Iraq. I can tell you that from the limited training and exposure I had back when Carter was President, and I declined commission, that they no more resemble the forces of that time than I resemble Ann Margaret.
The all volunteer force that we have today is professional, and does things with a precision that truly can’t be appreciated by those here at home. They have equipment that can honestly make me feel old, and even a touch envious, and for all the usual gripes, is so far beyond what was in place even 30 years ago as to seem like Mr. Spock’s phaser.
That is not to say that all is perfect, for it is not. The SNAFU fairy and, worse yet, the Good Idea Fairy, still strike. Yet, when that happens, those men and women serving today find a variety of creative and interesting ways to adapt and overcome.
I do not wish you a Happy Memorial Day, for this is not a happy day. Many things it is, but happy: No. When greeted with such, I tend to just simply say “to you too” though I long to say more.
For far too many, this is just another holiday. The joke told in the military is that they are at war, and America is at the mall. For those at the mall, those with no real connection to the day, this is a time for sales, vacations, and parties.
In many ways, it is not their fault. For far too many the reason for the day is abstract at best because they have no personal connection to the day. Nor are they taught any connection, much less taught its meaning.
For a good part of my life, Memorial Day was a day of the past. It was when I remembered my several times removed ancestor who died somewhere southeast of Nashville in a very uncivil war, and who lies there in an unmarked grave. It was a day I remembered my Uncle Foster, lost in one of the last naval attacks on mainland Japan, who’s casket is his plane which lies somewhere on the bottom of the sea.
For me, change began with the Marine Barracks in Beruit and truly changed on 9-11. I was lucky that day, the people I knew in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center got out alive. Their friends and colleagues, however, were not as fortunate. It was then that this day truly ceased being a thing of the past, and became a thing of the present.
In America, we are far more fortunate than we can truly appreciate. When the drum has sounded, when freedom and liberty have been threatened, a select group of men, women, and even children in times past, have stood forward and answered the call. They have watered the tree of liberty with that most precious of gifts, their blood, their lives.
On this day of memory, I want to introduce you to some of the most recent, who have special meaning to me.
Major Mathew Schram gave his life this day in 2003. He was the colleague and friend of someone I give thanks to be able to call friend. On this day, he led a convoy in Iraq and when it came under attack, he and his driver personally counterattacked to a plan they had worked out in advance. Their action caused the enemy to flee; however, Major Schram was killed in the process. It is worth noting that aside from him, no one else died because of his plan and prompt action. Two other soldiers were wounded, one of whom, his driver, continued the mission. It is also well worth noting that the convoy was being followed by a vehicle with a reporter for a major weekly magazine. When the ambush broke, they turned to flee and did so – something that would not have been possible if not for Major Schram’s action and sacrifice. It is also worth noting that the reporter and magazine never reported on this, as it wasn’t news that a good and better man died to save his life. From all I have heard of Mat Schram, I do wish I could have met him and known him. I remember him this day.
Specialist Marieo Guerrero, Captain Anthony Palermo, Private First Class Damian Lopez, and Specialist Ryan Dallam died in 2007 in West Rasheed, Iraq. They were part of the catalyst for my first embed to Iraq, and also the reason that Combat Outpost Ellis became the lynchpin for bringing the Anbar Awakening into the area southwest of Baghdad – and into Baghdad itself. Their colleagues and friends shared some of their stories with me, and I wish I could do more to bring them to life for you this day. Captain Palermo inspired the men who served under him, including those that stepped up when he fell to enemy action. The stories I heard of all these men brought forth smiles, laughter, and some tears. Specialist Guerrero died in March, and the rest on one dark day in April to a massive IED.
Lance Corporal Jeremy W. Burris is someone I particularly want to remember this day. His story, to my mind, exemplifies the special people we are here to remember. I can’t say I knew him, for I met him only in passing out at Al Qa’im on the Syrian border. Like most Marines I’ve met, he was full of – life.
He was one of a small horde of Marines to whom I was introduced in a blur of faces and names. He went out on a patrol, one on which I wanted to go on but couldn’t. While out, his vehicle was hit by an IED. Like any good Marine, he responded and got his buddies out to safety. There, he treated them for their injuries. Realizing that there were items in the vehicle that would make his brothers more comfortable and otherwise help, he went back. It was then that the second IED was detonated.
Afterwards, I learned more about him, those things I did not get a chance to learn from him. He had a love of music, an appreciation of the opposite sex, drive, and energy. He was in many ways, a very typical young man, who very atypically volunteered to serve his country in time of war. He, like all who currently serve, knew what they were doing, knew the risks, and still stepped forward and chose to join. I think of him often, and am glad I can share that very small bit of him I have learned with you this day.
Today is a day of remembrance. It is a day to honor those that paid the ultimate price for our freedom. It is a day to give most profound thanks to whatever God you worship, that such have walked and do walk among us and, stepped up to the call.
They are our parents, our children, our husbands, our wives, our friends. They fight for us this day, as generations before did for them. Next year, we will have more to remember, but we should not remember in sorrow, but with pride, thanks, and appreciation for them and for their sacrifice. One they have chosen to make, by knowingly volunteering in time of war, and we should do nothing to belittle that choice and the costly gift they have willingly laid on the altar of freedom.
No, this is not a day of sales, vacations, and parties. That said, in my far to brief journeys with them, I have met none that would find it wrong to be remembered in the happy setting of a barbecue or cook out. In fact, many of them would appreciate it, for they would know that you have the freedom to choose what to eat, when to eat, and to live your lives with liberty because of them and their sacrifice. So, eat a bite of good food for them, and raise a toast to them with your libation of choice.
Let us remember them, and give thanks for them, this day.
"Most people think that all it takes is two hands and two feet and a stupid mind. Maybe so, for cannon fodder. Possibly that was all the Julius Ceasar required. But a private soldier today is a specialist so highly skilled that he would rate "master" in any other trade."
Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers
I will throw out my usual plea for all to take some time out today for prayer and reflection on how the sacrifices of all veterans, from the Battle of Bunker Hill, to the daily firefights in Helmand and Kandahar really do affect our freedom. I will be thinking about the men and women who make my "today" a free "today" between cocktails and bratwursts and the families that are celebrating without them today.
And I will never be able to thank Earl, Larry, and Bernard enough for their sacrifice, but promise to think of you today, and everyday, when I think about what it takes and what I teach my son about what it takes to be free. The cause of freedom and it's triumph over tyranny will never be in doubt because of men like you.
A quick bleg for Pin Ups for Vets. For those of you who support Gina know, she went to Hawai'i to do some visits, take part in some things, and set the stage for more. Well, that was the plan, at any rate.
Seems United managed to lose her suitcase with all her costumes and clothes. The only one she checked, btw. And this on a non-stop flight. Trying to get anything out of United in terms of locating the missing luggage, much less going out and trying to buy new clothes and come up with something to replace the missing costumes, meant that things she had planned to do couldn't be done. It meant visits that didn't go as planned. It also means that the calendar shoots she has scheduled may now have to be cancelled.
Since United has yet to step up in any real way - no info at ALL on where the luggage is and nothing being done to make it right -- I guess it is up to us. Gina can replace her stuff, all it takes is money and time. Time no one can help with. Money, well, let's see about what can be done. Go make a donation, buy a calendar, do something. This trip may not have gone to plan, and the future events may now be in jeapardy, but let's see if we can do what United seems unable and/or unwilling to do -- make it right. Let 'em break guitars, it's what they are good at. Let's not let them break Gina's heart, or that of the vets she visits and supports.
In case any of you are following the destabilizing situation in Yemen -- few enough of you, I expect, but it is important to certain communities of our warriors -- this is the most important news to come out of there in quite a while.
The latest round of fighting began when the home of the country's most prominent tribal leader, Sadeq al-Ahmar, came under fire from security forces. It prompted fighters from his tribal confederation to attack ministries and try to take them over along with other key installations.
Known as a "black shame" in Arabic, tribesmen said that the shelling of Mr Ahmar's home during discussions about a ceasefire was a declaration of war.
I think that "black shame" is somewhat broader than the article implies: suggesting not a specific kind of shame, but rather a particularly damning shame. In this case the issue is perfidy combined with a violation of hospitality. Both of these are serious matters in any honor society. That the President of Yemen is seen to have violated the tribal honor code will have severe fallout.
Scots in the audience will remember the Massacre of Glencoe. The fact that they do -- three hundred years and more after the fact -- should underline how seriously honor societies take these issues.
"In the 1920s, Germany had numerous 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication."
Hitler established an Animal Talking School, or Tier-Sprechschule, near Hanover which recruited dogs of promising intellect from all over Germany. The teachers claimed fantastic progress. They taught Don, a German pointer, to say "Hungry! Give me cakes" in German. Another dog could bark "Mein Fuhrer" when asked who Hitler was. An Airedale terrier named Rolf learned to spell, philosophized on religion, and learned foreign languages.
The Nazis thought they could train these super-dogs to guard concentration camps and serve with Wehrmacht soldiers. It was just crazy enough to work.
One shudders to think of the calamity that could have befallen our troops on D-Day had the beach head in Normandy been counter-attacked by a division of Nazi talking dog soldiers. My guess is that they would have been pretty freaked out unless they had the foresight to bring some tennis balls or squeaky toys to throw at any attacking talking dogs so as to distract them.
The Allied powers were lucky that the Nazis drug their feet in developing their super-weapons and producing them en masse. You can't help but wonder how wrong things could have gone had there been swarms of Nazi V-2 missiles, jet fighters, atom bombs, and talking dogs. I, for one, would not want to live in a world where America was ruled by Nazi talking super dog warriors.
I attended the annual awards dinner put on by No Greater Sacrifice, a group that provides college educations for the children of fallen and wounded warriors. That is obviously a great cause and the evening was a fitting tribute to out warrior class and the families that support them.
One of the awardees was the family of a guy who has been featured here as Someone You Should Know, LTC Tim Karcher and his wife and three daughters. His story of perseverence in the face of near fatal injuries should inspire anyone. Now he and his wife know that whatever comes of his military career, his daughters will all have the opportunity to go to school. They were all there and spoke of just what that means to them as Tim continues to serve and his family continues supporting him and living their lives.
SSG LaBrand Strickland of the 82nd Airborne. his wife and two sons were also recipients of college funds. When his son told how he never thought that his Dad could get hurt because he was so strong and athletic, everyone in the audience teared up. But they were positive and upbeat, as was LaBrand and he told how his survival convinced him he was kept alive because he had important things to do, you just knew it was true.
There were two folks given the Freedom award and the first was a truly amazing soldier SFC Joe Kapacziewski who CJ profiled here.
When Staff Sgt. Joe Kapacziewski headed out on a mission Oct. 3, 2005, it seemed like an average day in Iraq. As his squad went under a bridge, the unit was ambushed and a grenade detonated just a few feet away from Kapacziewski. For Kapacziewski, the attack set in a motion an extensive recovery process that would forever change the Ranger – yet what didn’t change despite the incident was his commitment to his fellow Rangers and his desire to serve his country.
Due to damage from the detonation, Kapacziewski underwent more than 40 surgeries to repair the shattered bones and damaged ligaments and tendons before his right leg was finally amputated. In addition to the amputation, his injuries included a severed median nerve and brachial artery in his right arm and deep tissue wounds on his hip. Kapacziewski was awarded three Purple Hearts for his injuries and also received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his meritorious service and leadership.
Today, Kapacziewski continues to lead Rangers on special operations and infantry missions – with his prosthetic leg.
That's right and he just returned from his 9th combat tour in Afghanistan as a platoon sergeant with the Ranger Regiment. Wow, doesn't even begin to cover it. RLTW!
The final awardee was one of the greatest combat leader our country has produced, Gen. Ray Odierno. I don't think I need to tell any of you here what an amazing officer and American he is. Almost five years in Iraq making sure that no matter what happened back in America, we would drive on and win. And we did. Thank you sir, from all of us.
A great event, a great cause and some great Americans. What a way to lead into Memorial Day weekend. Remember the fallen, and enjoy the freedom they bought you with their sacrifices.
Again, rare to see video of SOCOM Valor Awards Ceremonies. Here is a ceremony for 3rd Battalion, #rd SFG (Airborne). Five Soldiers from 3rd SFG (A) received the Silver Star, 19 Soldiers received the Bronze Star with V device, 18 Soldiers will receive the Army Commendation Medal with V device, and five Soldiers received the Purple Heart:
Here's what happened to CW2 Jason Myers in his words (he received the Silver Star for his actions):
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.